The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to create a pilot program that will give the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority jurisdiction over enforcement and environmental stewardship along the Los Angeles River, from the Canoga Park headwaters to Lindley Avenue in Reseda.
“After years of finger pointing and lack of action, we will finally have one tested, competent and trusted governmental agency in the MRCA to handle the complex issues facing the L.A. River in the West Valley,” City Councilman Bob Blumenfield said. “This isn’t going to be easy, but we needed to do something bold to help resolve these humanitarian and environmental issues.”
The river is currently overseen by various jurisdictions, which has led to a number of issues, Blumenfield said.
Rangers who regularly spend time on the river will be able to respond to any vandalism, illegal dumping or problems in the area that discourage people from using the path.
“As a community, we’re very excited about this pilot program because it’ll address many of the challenges we’ve faced on an ongoing basis over the last four years,” said Evelyn Aleman, co-founder of the L.A. River Walkers and Watchers. “It is our hope that this program becomes a part of the L.A. River masterplan.”
Blumenfield said people who conduct cleanups along the stretch of river in his Council District 3 commonly find needles in shrubs and along the bike path, among other debris associated with drug use. Recently, drug and gang activity appear to have increased in the river area, resulting in at least one murder, the councilman said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Los Angeles County Flood Control District and various Los Angeles city departments all have responsibility for some aspect of river area maintenance and enforcement.
The MRCA is composed of rangers and law enforcement personnel with water, EMT, naturalist and wildland firefighter training, according to Blumenfield’s office. MRCA can contract to work on all areas of the river regardless of which governmental entity has ownership for a particular area.
Blumenfield said he will allocate district-specific funds to operate the pilot program for the first year, and several city departments will be responsible for creating the details of the program.